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History / 4 June post from Lieutenant James Cook’s Journal 250 years ago

Today's post from Lieutenant James Cook's Journal 250 years ago.

Monday, 4nd June.

In Whitsunday Passage, Queensland

❝Monday, 4th. Winds at South-South-East and South-East, a Gentle breeze and Clear weather.

In the P.M. Steerd thro’ the passage which we found from 3 to 6 or 7 Miles broad, and 8 or 9 Leagues in length, North by West 1/2 West and South by East 1/2 East. It is form’d by the Main on the West, and by Islands on the East, one of which is at least 5 Leagues in length.

Our Depth of Water in running thro’ was between 25 and 20 fathoms; everywhere good Anchorage; indeed the whole passage is one Continued safe Harbour, besides a Number of small Bays and Coves on each side, where ships might lay as it where in a Bason; at least so it appear’d to me, for I did not wait to Examine it, as having been in Port so lately, and being unwilling to loose the benefit of a light Moon.

The land, both on the Main and Islands, especially on the former, is Tolerably high, and distinguished by Hills and Vallies, which are diversified with Woods and Lawns that looked green and pleasant.

On a Sandy beach upon one of the Islands we saw 2 people and a Canoe, with an outrigger, which appeared to be both Larger and differently built to any we have seen upon the Coast.

At 6 we were nearly the length of the North end of the Passage; the North Westermost point of the Main in sight bore North 54 degrees West, and the North end of the Island North-North-East, having an open Sea between these 2 points.

[This passage I have named Whitsundays Passage, as it was discover’d on the day the Church commemorates that Festival, and the Isles which form it Cumberland Isles, in honour of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland. 

[Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, was a younger brother of George III]  

We kept under an Easey Sail and the Lead going all Night, having 21, 22, and 23 fathoms, at the distance of 3 Leagues from the land. At daylight A.M. we were abreast of the point above mentioned, which is a lofty promontory; that I named Cape Gloucester, 

[William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, a younger brother of George III]  

(Latitude 19 degrees 57 minutes South, Longitude 211 degrees 54 minutes West).

It may be known by an Island which lies out at Sea North by West 1/2 West, 5 or 6 Leagues from it; this I called Holbourn Isle. 

[Admiral Francis Holbourne commanded the fleet in North America in which Cook served in 1757] 

There are also Islands laying under the Land between it and Whitsundays Passage. On the West side of the Cape the Land Trends away South-West and South-South-West, and forms a deep bay. The Sand in the bottom of this bay I could but just see from the Masthead; it is very low, and is a Continuation of the same low land as is at the bottom of Repulse Bay. Without Waiting to look into this bay, which I called Edgcumbe Bay, 

[In Port Denison, on the western side of Edgcumbe Bay, is the rising town of Bowen, the port of an agricultural district. There is good coal in the vicinity. Captain G. Edgcumbe commanded the Lancaster in the fleet in North America in 1758 in which Cook served. Afterwards Earl of Mount Edgcumbe].  

We continued our Course to the Westward.❞

The notes in  [ ] are by W H Wharton in 1893.


On his voyage up the east coast until this point, Cook had already named Botany Bay, Port Jackson, Port Stephens, Cape Byron (for Commodore John Byron, commander of the Dolphin on its first circumnavigation of the world from 1764 to 1766), Mount Warning, Moreton Bay, (originally Morton, named for Lord Morton, president of the Royal Society) and the Glasshouse Mountains.

 But as Tony Horwitz says in his book ‘Into the Blue’: “One of the ironies of Cook’s voyages is that a man who charted and named more of the world than any navigator in history has few places of consequence called after him.”


Our appreciation to Pam Willis Burden, Gail Cockburn and Douglas Shire Historical Society for sharing this content with us daily.

Painting of local indigenous by Joseph Lycett c.1817 NLA
Henry Duke of Cumberland brother of King George III. Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, 1777